The U.S House of Representatives on Thursday passed its version of H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013 by a largely party-line vote of 216-208. In this version of the bill, the House removed the nutrition title, which funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which the House plans to address separately in a later vote. The next step would be for a joint House-Senate conference committee to develop a compromise bill. The Senate has passed their version, which includes the nutrition title and SNAP funding, so it is unclear whether such a compromise is likely or even possible.
"Today was an important step toward enacting a five-year farm bill this year that gives our farmers and ranchers certainty, provides regulatory relief to small businesses across the country, significantly reduces spending, and makes common-sense, market-oriented reforms to agricultural policy,” says Representative Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who serves as Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee. “I look forward to continuing conversations with my House colleagues and starting conversations with my Senate colleagues on a path forward that ultimately gets a farm bill to the President's desk in the coming months."
Passage of the Farm-only bill has drawn mixed reviews from agricultural groups, with some relieved to have progress toward the risk-management and disaster-assistance provisions farmers need, and some concerned that splitting farm programs from SNAP will endanger support among urban lawmakers.
“Today the House took the unprecedented step in separating the nutrition title from the farm bill, and passing a bill that only encompasses agriculture,” says NCBA president Scott George . This step is a major departure from the usual business of agricultural policy, but I am pleased that cattlemen and women are one step closer toward final legislation which not only provides certainty for producers, but also incorporates priorities important to the cattle industry.
“We are very pleased that this legislation includes disaster programs for our producers, which will extend disaster assistance for five years and retroactively covers losses in 2012 and 2013. The legislation authorizes conservation programs important to cattle producers as a tool to leverage private dollars with some federal support to further protect the land and natural resources. It contains language to prevent the United States Department of Agriculture from moving forward on the proposed GIPSA rule from the 2008 Farm Bill.”
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson expressed his organization’s opposition to the legislation. “Today’s strictly partisan vote to pass the farm bill apart from the nutrition title undermines the long-time coalition of support for a unified, comprehensive farm bill which has historically been written on a bipartisan basis,” he says.
Last week, NFU led a coalition of 532 organizations in writing a letter calling for the House not to split the bill. This broad-based coalition, composed of agriculture, conservation, rural development, finance, forestry, energy and crop insurance companies and organizations, NFU says, is now being undermined by extreme partisan political organizations that do not represent constituents affected by the farm bill
The Illinois Farm Bureau also opposed H.R. 2642 because it would break up the farm bill coalition, eliminate the incentive to write future farm bills, and threaten the future viability of crop insurance.
“Despite our opposition today, IFB will continue to play a constructive role in the farm bill debate,” the organization wrote in a statement. “We urge House leadership to appoint conferees and encourage all parties to work in good faith to enact a mutually acceptable, bipartisan five-year farm bill that provides long sought after policy certainty for farmers and consumers alike.”